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WHEN IT BEGAN

Matthew Ryan recalls his discovery of The Replacements

Matthew Ryan 2011_photo by Scott Simontacchi.jpg

As Matthew Ryan tours this fall supporting his latest album, I Recall Standing As Though Nothing Could Fall, the singer/songwriter will make a slight detour to perform as part of a star-studded concert series in New York paying tribute to one of his favorite bands, The Replacements.

Ryan recently turned the clock back 25 years to talk about how he stumbled upon the band and its music, as well as discuss their appeal and the confidence they’ve given him throughout his career.

Matthew Ryan: “Things get blurry as you go on, but I’m gonna say it was probably 1986. My folks and I and my brother had moved from Chester, Pa., to a college town in Delaware called Newark. There was a great record shop called Rainbow Records; it had a few little stores throughout that area. … And I remember in the Rs — I can’t remember why I was looking in the Rs — but I saw The Replacements and saw the cover of the Let It Be record.

“I just identified with it immediately. And there was a writer in the local music magazine who had written a lot about The Replacements; he kind of piqued my interest.

“I bought the [Let It Be] cassette. I was kind of so-so on it. I loved ‘Favorite Thing,’ and I didn’t quite get ‘Sixteen Blue.’ But then ‘Unsatisfied’ came on, and it was over.

“I think what was cool about it was I had grown up in an area that mainly had album-oriented rock, so I grew up hearing a lot of AC/DC and stuff like that. I didn’t really know about underground music, but I was searching. I was starting to look and check stuff out, you know?

And The Replacements and The Clash were my introduction into what I view as real music now — and viewed it that way then. There was just an honesty to it, in everything — in the way they looked, in the way they sounded, the way they sang. It made me think, ‘Well, I can do that.’ I think it made anybody who loved it feel like on some level that they could do it.

“Now of course, that kind of genius isn’t really that easy (laughs). But it gives you that empowerment: ‘I can pick up a guitar, and I can sing a song, and I don’t have to sing in key all the time. I just have to mean it, and that might mean something.’ And it does.

“As much of a bastard that [Paul] Westerberg could sound like at times, it was like he was always pulling for you, and it felt personal. I didn’t initially get ‘Sixteen Blue,’ but as I got older, I did. People try and pick on Don’t Tell a Soul, but I think Don’t Tell a Soul is a great record. That song ‘Achin’ to Be’ — are you kidding me?

“For me, I just wanna pull for a homely kid in the corner, and I think that comes from some sort of understanding that bands like The Replacements share with you. It’s probably the misfits who are the most sensitive and have the most interesting things to say, so you wanna pull for them.

“Stage-wise or performance-wise, I’m probably just about as awkward as those guys were. I mean, Tommy Stinson was always a rock ‘n’ roll star, but the rest of them were kinda awkward. So I guess it’s made me feel like it’s OK to go up there and be awkward (laughs). Tommy Stinson was cool enough for all of them.

“As far as I’m concerned, The Replacements belong right next to The Rolling Stones … [and they were] definitely as important as The Clash, but I don’t know if Westerberg would appreciate that. And not to pick on Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar, but as far as I’m concerned, [The Replacements] were the first alt-country band. That’s always kind of mystified as to why the No Depression gang wants to pretend The Replacements weren’t doing that in 1981.

“I love The Replacements, man, and I just hope people understand how great [they were].”

— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior

Matthew Ryan on tour (schedule subject to change):

* Nov. 15: The Saint — Asbury Park, N.J.
* Nov. 16: Bowery Electric — New York (Replacements tribute concert — preceded by a screening of the documentary Color Me Obsessed: A Film About The Replacements)
* Nov. 18: IOTA Club & Café — Arlington, Va.
* Nov. 19: The Living Room — New York
* Nov. 20: Kennett Flash — Kennett Square, Pa.

Photo by Scott Simontacchi